What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a very little girl I wanted to be a large animal veterinarian. I imagined myself travelling in a dusty pickup truck from farm to farm in red cowgirl boots treating and cuddling sick horses. By grade six my dreams had shifted and I declared to my parents that I wanted to be a molecular biologist so I could cure cancer and maybe even grow a unicorn. Somehow by the time I was at a career fair in high school I had pivoted to a school guidance councillor. What the heck happened?
I can trace back the moment that changed my plans to a conversation with a male teacher, Mr. Wamsley, on club day in grade 8. My friend and I, equally geeky girls, approached the signup table intent on penning our names on the Chemistry is Cool signup list. Instead we were handed the Friendship Club clipboard and were strongly encouraged to join with all the other girls.
My experience isn’t at all unique and stats around girls participation in tech are grim. A recent survey commissioned by Microsoft found that girls around the age of 11 were interested in STEM subjects but by the time they are 15 they lost interest. With about four in ten girls saying they they don’t get enough practical experiences. Combined that with reports that by the end of 2016 Canada was 100,000 tech workers short and by 2020 there could be one million unfulfilled programming jobs in Canada. Seems like a great opportunity to change the story.
I want my own nine-year-old daughter Charlotte to have all the opportunities in the world, and to feel empowered to follow whatever dreams she may have. When we got the chance to preview the Level Up Kids Camps program in Toronto we were thrilled and to be honest the lure of robots, Minecraft, and coding together made my little nerd heart sign.
Level Up Kids Summer camps are offered across Canada to kids ages 7-14 in everything from Minecraft to Mobile Game Design. They even offer girls only sessions to help create a safe and comfortable space for learning. Each day is filled with a mix of STEM focused programming, socializing, games and group outdoor play.
Classes are based on the abilities of the campers and they recognize that not every kid is the same. They try different programs until they click with your child to ensure they learn and have a great time. Charlotte is not a strong reader and I was a little worried that it would be difficult for her to follow. Thankfully the helpers were right there to work with her.
A few benefits to learning to code even if your kids don’t necessarily want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Ada Lovelace (yet):
- Kids learn to make sense of problems and they persevere in solving them. By understanding the problem, making a plan to attack it, and working until it is done. I saw this first hand while we were playing Minecraft together and needed to fence in our sheep so they didn’t fall into the ocean.
- Kids learn to reason abstractly. Breaking down complex problems into simple smaller steps forces kids to reason and they learn to be precise which is a life skill required for writing computer programs, building houses, and even making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
- Model with Mathematics and structures. Different programs require them to use X and Y coordinates, spatial directions, finding the shortest paths, and measuring distances. They also look for and make use of patterns to simplify solutions.
It has been a few weeks since we attended the Level Up Kids event and I’ve downloaded both Scratch & Minecraft to our home computer because of what we learned. She is even getting her brother involved and they are working together to solve problems – as in a pause in fighting!!!
Life in Pleasantville has a one week STEM camp to give away with Level Up Kids at participating locations across Canada. Enter using Rafflecopter below. Contest open to Canadian residents only, excluding Quebec. Contest closes June 18, 2017.
This post is part of the Ehm & Co #LevelUpKids Sponsored Program. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation though this post reflects my own thoughts and personal opinion.